On our second Monopoly Adventure we traveled to the Southwestern United States to visit Petroglyph, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, and the Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon was the last one of this trip arriving here the third week of March. As we first began planning this trip my expectation was that mid to late March would be great time to visit this area of the country as it is Arizona and should be a warm retreat from winter. Surprisingly that was a misconception as we saw snow in every park we visited.
Nearing the Grand Canyon you could already see portions of this formation before ever entering the park but not to the scale it is inside of Grand Canyon National Park. We arrived at the visitor center, parked the car and headed for our first view of this enormous canyon. Most of us have seen pictures of this place but those just cannot display the magnitude of the Grand Canyon. You can’t see how far down it is from the rim to the River or how wide it is from the South Rim to the North Rim.
Once you begin to grasp just how large this place is, the details of different layers of rock and plants growing on top of those rocks creating a green contrast to the red, orange, brown, and beige rock layers making up this canyon strike you. There are numerous layers of different colors and textures showing each natural event combining to create this Grand Canyon. Definitely a beautiful sight! Even from the top of the rim you can hear the Colorado River crashing over boulders creating the large white water rapids so many like to raft over. Amazing how far that sound travels.
Even though there was snow on the ground in places and it was cooler than we anticipated it still was a good time of year to visit as there were considerably fewer people allowing us to get around faster and see more of the canyon. There are several trails throughout the Grand Canyon which would have been interesting to explore but we had already traveled on miles of trails while exploring the South Rim and didn’t feel up to climbing down a portion of the canyon and then back up. This was before we had done any real hiking to know what our abilities are. If we visited the Grand Canyon now I would definitely take off on this trail to see these incredible rock layers close up. Maybe some day I will because I would also like to camp near Phantom Ranch and see the Colorado River up close.
Canyon De Chelly was a National Park we haven’t heard of before and a brief search before visiting basically informed us that it is a canyon in Arizona. It may not be largely publicized because of that other little canyon in Arizona called The Grand Canyon. Canyon de Chelly is a beautiful park where the floor is still in use today by the Navajo for farming as this park is part of the Navajo Indian Reservation.
We enjoyed exploring this National Park as it is a beautiful place amongst the Colorado Plateau with the uniquely carved out canyons and amazing rock formations all made out of red tinted stone. There are numerous overlooks surrounding this park each providing a great view of canyon and surrounding area. The longer you look at the rocks you begin to see more and more details such as stone carved by the natural elements, rock stacked together creating layers upon layers highlighted by different colors, and areas where the rocks have fallen away from the cliffs created caves.
There is one designated trail that allows you to hike into the canyon without trespassing on Navajo lands at the bottom so we decided to take advantage of that opportunity. There are tours available led by Navajo guides as they are the only ones allowed to bring people down into the canyon outside of this trail.
The trail takes about 15 – 20 minutes as you wind back and forth among the stones descending about 600 feet to the bottom. Along this hiking trail there are tunnels and caves providing some great locations for people to escape the elements. They also made great additions to the scenery throughout the canyon. Once at the bottom you get a very different perspective of this stone maze. There’s a better understanding of how tall these cliffs are and how large this canyon is. Plant diversity becomes apparent as many areas are dry providing an environment for cactus to grow while near the river running along the bottom gives moisture for trees and other plants.
At the end of the trail you can explore one of the areas cliff dwellers inhabited at one time. The structures are kept behind a fence in order to preserve them but they are still interesting to see and makes it a little easier to imagine what it must have been like living in this canyon before the conveniences of horses and vehicles. What was it like to create multiple level buildings climbing up cliffs into large caves? These cliff dwellings were an unexpected surprise for us as we explored Canyon De Chelly National Monument.